New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) India national football coach Igor Stimac on Thursday made a surprise appearance at the launch of the 2019/20 season of the I-League that was held in New Delhi. Stimac brought out the I-League trophy at the end of the event after the teams for the new season had been introduced.
“I’m here to show that the I-League is as important as the ISL (Indian Super League). I’m here to send the players who are participating in the I-League the message that all those who have an Indian passport are possible candidate for the Indian team,” Stimac told reporters.
Stimac’s other intention, while left unsaid, was very clearly to provide a perspective on the Indian team’s recent results at the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The positivity that came with the point that they managed to secure away from home to free-scoring Asian champions Qatar was followed by draws at home and away against lower ranked opposition Bangladesh and Afghanistan respectively and a recent 0-1 defeat to Oman.
Stimac has been trying to make the team play a possession-based brand of football and said that while the team was dissapointed with the results, it doesn’t undermine their belief in their style.
The Croat said that despite injuries to the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Rowllin Borges, Pronay Halder, India are in a better position in the qualifiers now than they were ahead of Russia 2018. “We need to be positive and the simple reason is the facts. In the last world cup qualifiers, we had five consecutive defeats. Now we have two defeats and three draws. In the last qualifiers after five games, we had zero points. Now we have three.
“We have more games to come and we are on our way to achieving what we promised, which is competing at the Asian Cup, doing better than before once we get there, preparing the team for the future and going into the next qualifiers with higher expectations,” he said.
Stimac said that there is a dearth of good strikers in the country. Save for the game against Qatar, in which the priority was clearly to stop the opposition from scoring, India created a number of good scoring opportunities in all of their qualifiers. And yet, they only have three goals to show for their efforts with even the otherwise dependable Sunil Chhetri missing easy chances.
“Why do you expect (the team) to score goals at the international level if we don’t have strikers in the league scoring goals. I don’t have the players on a daily basis, I work with them five days before the game,” he said. The former Croatia centre-back, however, reckons that upside of the time he has spent with the team thus far is that they are creating chances.
“India is no longer a team that goes somewhere and fears the opponent. No way. We go without fear, to play football and face the opponent never mind who that is. We are not sitting inside our box and fighting for our lives. We are there trying to play football, whoever it may be on the other side. New brave India with a heart and courage to play football, upgrading your game, bringing and developing new talent in the team, that’s the only way,” he asserted.
(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted on [email protected])